Discovering Manitoba

Pisew Falls

“No sound is heard, until it is left behind, and then it is heard forever.” Part of a poem inscribed at Pisew Falls, in northern Manitoba. (Photo: Travel Manitoba).

“No sound is heard, until it is left behind, and then it is heard forever.”

This concluding stanza of a poem displayed at the site of Pisew Falls in northern Manitoba is indicative of the subtle yet meaningful impact that this largely unknown area of the province will have on any adventurer who seeks out this remote and seldom travelled road.

Situated about 700 km north of Winnipeg, and one-half km from Hwy 6, Pisew Falls is near Kwasitchewan Falls, the highest year-round waterfall in the province. With the eerily still lake nearby and the miles and miles of untouched wilderness, this geological anomaly causes many to wonder, “You mean we’re still in Manitoba?” Pisew Falls derives its name from the Cree dialect, with “Pisew” meaning “lynx”, and the hissing water’s resemblance to the sound of this northern feline.

The feeling you have upon approaching this provincial park is markedly different one than you would have driving past the opulent summer retreats found on Lake of the Woods. Along Hwy #6, it is possible to spy forgotten towns, gravel roads that appear to meander off into nowhere, all set in a very tangible stillness, abetted by trees still bearing the scars of long-ago fire. Along the rugged 22 km trail from Pisew Falls to Kwastichewan Falls, one could walk for hours – days even – without meeting another soul. The same can be said of any canoe or kayak trip in the area; your only company for lengthy stretches may be the persistent hiss of the falls.

In the summer, the moisture generated by the tumbling water has helped create a surrounding canvas of lush, green moss so thick that footprints seem permanently scored on the forest floor. Come winter, translucent blue streams of ice cling to the sides of the falls, sometimes breaking off with a loud snap! before plunging into the open waters below. The falls themselves never freeze. What’s more, they are said to produce their own micro- climate, with some plants nestled between the flowing water and the barrier of ice surviving the entire winter, despite the frigid temperatures.

Perhaps, as the poem goes, the sound of the falls will become lost in the background, overshadowed by the mighty falls, the tapestry of greens and blues and whites. But once you leave, it will be the whisper of the falls, the call of the lynx, that resonates in your mind, imploring you to return.

- by Melissa Hiebert

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